Michigan, which not long ago had one of the country’s lowest COVID-19 infection rates, is confronting an alarming spike that some experts worry could be a harbinger nationally, according to the Associated Press. Over the past two weeks, Michigan’s seven-day average of new cases per day has increased 122% — the largest change in the U.S. — rising to 3,753 from 1,687, the biggest jump in raw figures, too. Nationwide, COVID-19 has killed more than 545,000 people. With the vaccine rollout hitting its stride, deaths have plummeted to fewer than 1,000 a day on average, down from a peak of more than 3,400 in mid-January. New cases have plunged as well but are running at a still-worrisome average of more than 57,000 per day.
Flush with rebounding tax collections and a windfall in federal aid, Washington Senate Democrats on Thursday released a new budget plan that funds public health amid COVID-19, provides relief for immigrants and renters, gives new aid for businesses, child care programs and funds a tax exemption for low-income families. The new, proposed $59.2 billion state operating budget for 2021-23 includes an additional roughly $7 billion from the federal government’s COVID-19 relief package on programs.
We’re updating this page with the latest news about the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the Seattle area, the U.S. and the world.
Click here to see previous days’ live updates and all our other coronavirus coverage, and here to see how we track the daily spread across Washington and the world.
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U.S. on pace to clear Biden’s new goal: 200M coronavirus shots in his first 100 days
President Joe Biden’s first vaccine promise — 100 million shots in his first 100 days — was met 42 days early. So on Thursday he doubled it, saying 200 million doses will have been administered under his presidency by April 30.
The nation is already poised to meet the revised target, as the seven-day average of daily vaccinations surpasses 2.5 million. Vaccine supply is also expected to expand in April, prompting numerous states to throw open eligibility to everyone 16 and older.
“I know it’s ambitious — twice our original goal — but no other country in the world has even come close, not even close, to what we’re doing,” Biden said as part of introductory remarks before his first formal news conference. “I believe we can do it.”
—Lena H. Sun and Isaac Stanley-Becker, The Washington Post
Shots in little arms: COVID-19 vaccine testing turns to kids
Researchers in the U.S. and abroad are beginning to test younger and younger kids to make sure COVID-19 vaccines are safe and work for each age. The first shots are going to adults who are most at risk from the coronavirus, but ending the pandemic will require vaccinating children too.
But younger children may need different doses than teens and adults. Moderna recently began a study similar to Pfizer’s new trial, as both companies hunt the right dosage of each shot for each age group as they work toward eventually vaccinating babies as young as 6 months.
Getting this data, for all the vaccines being rolled out, is critical because countries must vaccinate children to achieve herd immunity, noted Duke pediatric and vaccine specialist Dr. Emmanuel “Chip” Walter, who is helping to lead the Pfizer study.
For Brazil’s doctors, choosing who lives and who dies exacts a toll
In Brazil, where the coronavirus is still surging — daily deaths hit a record 3,251 Tuesday — this is now the life of a doctor: an unending succession of life-or-death decisions, and grappling with the mental trauma that follows.
Brazil, which has buried more COVID-19 victims than any country outside the United States, is suffering a health-care collapse. In three-fourths of state capitals, the critical care system is at greater than 90 percent capacity. There are vanishingly few places anywhere in the country to transfer patients. Hospitals are facing shortages in oxygen and the medications necessary to intubate patients. Intensive care units are so overwhelmed that victims of other emergencies are being turned away.
Now the country is running out of doctors, too. The failure to hire more has undone expansion plans all over the country, placing more stress on already overburdened health-care workers. As the virus kills about 2,300 Brazilians every day, the people charged with maintaining the faltering health-care system say the daily carnage has pushed them to their limit.
—Terrence McCoy and Heloísa Traiano, The Washington Post
Officials urge vigilance as Germany sees 3rd infection wave
German health officials warned Friday that the country’s latest eruption of coronavirus cases has the potential to be worse than the previous two last year, and they urged people to stay at home during the upcoming Easter break to help slow the rapidly rising numbers of new infections.
Lothar Wieler, head of Germany’s disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, said that Germany is just at the “beginning of the third wave” of the pandemic. He said the more contagious variant of the virus first detected in Britain is now the dominant one in the country.
“It’s more contagious and more dangerous, and thus more difficult to stop,” Wieler said. “There are clear signals that this wave could be even worse than the first two waves.”
The number of new weekly infections per 100,000 people was around 70 two weeks ago, compared to 119 on Friday, he said. Germany reported 21,573 new cases on Friday, compared to a daily number of 17,482 a week earlier.
China outlines COVID-origin findings, ahead of WHO report
Chinese officials briefed diplomats Friday on the ongoing research into the origin of COVID-19, ahead of the expected release of a long-awaited report from the World Health Organization.
Feng Zijian, a Chinese team member and the deputy director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said the experts examined four possible ways the virus got to Wuhan.
They are: a bat carrying the virus infected a human, a bat infected an intermediate mammal that spread it to a human, shipments of cold or frozen food, and a laboratory that researches viruses in Wuhan.
The experts voted on the hypotheses after in-depth discussion and concluded one of the two animal routes or the cold chain was most likely how it was transmitted. A lab leak was viewed as extremely unlikely, Feng said.
New study of students at UW, other colleges, will answer a key question about coronavirus transmission
COVID-19 vaccines appear to do a great job of protecting people from severe disease, hospitalization and death.
But a key question — with implications for long-term control of the pandemic — remains: Can vaccinated people get mild or asymptomatic infections and pass the virus on to others?
Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and several other institutions now hope to find the answer with the help of thousands of college students across the country — including at the University of Washington.
A major study announced Friday, called Prevent COVID U, aims to enroll 12,000 students at 21 colleges and universities and follow them for five months. Half the young people, ages 18 to 26, will get the Moderna vaccine right away. The rest will get the shots starting four months later.
All of the participants will keep electronic diaries, swab their noses every day and provide periodic blood samples. The idea is to detect even low levels of the novel coronavirus as soon as they appear and compare the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups.
A "very concerning" sign in Washington state: The COVID-19 case count is flattening instead of continuing to drop as we come off a surge — and in some counties, including King and Snohomish, cases are rising. Vaccinations are rising, too, but fast enough? Meanwhile, another state that had one of the lowest U.S. infection rates is now confronting an alarming spike that experts worry could be a harbinger nationally.
Side effects can mean your COVID-19 vaccine is working. But what if you don’t have a reaction? Three experts explain what's going on.
Washington’s schools can immediately reduce physical distancing to 3 feet, Gov. Jay Inslee said yesterday as he pushed to get more kids in classrooms. But not every school can start moving desks.
What lockdown is like for a mother of 11: One laptop for the entire family … well, that didn't work. Katja Heimann has carried her family over hurdle after hurdle, but it's become “very exhausting lately.” (Just lately?! We're impressed.)